Thursday, May 21, 2015

"It is ENOUGH!"

The rain battering my windows, the thunder, the small pellets of hail ended the sleep for that night. (Yes, it is May in Colorado.)

Rubbing away what the sand man deposited, I reached for the extra pillows creating a comfy nest to read in, unusual for me.

Reaching for my morning book, I turn to the story of Elijah. He's been roaming around my mind for the past month.

Elijah, the prophet and mighty warrior, a contemporary of bad King Ahab, was God's instrument to strike down the prophets of Baal.

Something changed; the fearless turns fearful.
Elijah, now afraid, running for his life, begging to die. "It is ENOUGH;" (I Kings 19:4) I almost see the shaking fist, the defiant look, the trembling, the tears; and hear his angry voice.                          Elijah is a mess!

I've had enough! I bet you've said that at some point? I know I have.

I don't care; I give up; I'm just going to grin and bear it.
As I remember my words were more like these, but they could have been It is ENOUGH! I don't recall verbalizing them, but I heard them in my head and in my heart. It was a hard time; I was on the hunt for a broom tree.

Broom trees in wildernesses I guess are good places to lick your wounds.

The story continues ... turns in a new direction, to an encouraging path. I was hooked. The proverbial light bulb was shining and becoming brighter.

Even in the midst of his wilderness, Elijah knew God was there. And He was. As Elijah slept (my guess is rather fitfully), God through an angel initiated toward him. It reminded me of Joseph in Matthew 1; he too was traveling a great hard and God initiated toward him while he slept.

My thoughts bounced back to my story. As I wallowed in my hard, not expecting God to show up, God initiated to me. My friend Kathy and Milt, a counselor by occupation, were the angels God used. 

Elijah's angel provided food to nourish him twice knowing his next steps would be physically taxing. Interesting, I Kings records, "And he ... went in the strength of the food ..." (verse 8). The food was enough for his journey to Horeb.

Kathy opened a window of hope for me. Milt provided enough for me too to start the trek on a new encouraging path.

"The last and greatest lesson that the soul has to learn is the fact that God and God alone, is enough for all its needs. This is the lesson that all His dealings with us are meant to teach; and this is the crowning discovery of our whole Christian life, God is enough!"                                                 Hannah Whitall Smith, The God of All Comfort, p. 241.

And, that's not all! The story continues. It gets even better ... next week Earthquakes, Fires, and Whispers. 

What are your "it is enough" words? Where are your broom trees? What would help you use broom trees as a trigger to look for the God who initiates? How have you experienced God providing enough for you?

"And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God." I Kings 19:8 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Journey of Loss

We sat around our dining room table sharing our stories.

Like you, I've walked this path before. Although the time line remains the same, the understanding deepens. This time I recognized a new theme, trust and un-trust.

As I talked through my story of trust or un-trust, Lisa and Joyce listened well. I paused.

Joyce, sitting to my left softly spoke, the journey of loss is hard, isn't it? Perhaps not as much a question as a statement.

The tears surfaced uninvited. Her words gently pressed on the hurt of loss--a hurt I didn't realize still hurt.

Buried underneath the trust, un-trust issue loomed something bigger, something more significant, something if not aware of can never be healed.

The issue of loss.

My friend, Bill Thrall, says, "Experience is not the best teacher, evaluating your experiences is the best teacher."

As my journey of evaluation began, I remembered ...

I was in first or second grade. Winters in NJ call for hats and scarves and Mom had prepared me well. I had a new green hat and scarf set monogrammed with my name. I loved it. But on my walk home from school that day, a big boy (maybe my first experience with bullying) came up behind me, snatched the hat, and threw it over the tall privacy fence. It was gone with no hope of reclaiming.

As a young child that was pretty traumatic. But more than the incident itself, the loss of my new hat with my name on it, pictures far more significant losses in my adult life all of which had my name on them. With the loss of my hat came the loss of a piece of my identity.

My evaluation continued by listing several losses of my life. They began to fall into categories ...
  •   Some were natural, normal, even expected. 
  •   Some even resulted from times of celebration. This thought surprised me.
  •   Some were hard, very hard; some not so.
As my list grew, patterns emerged as well.

Difficult losses went counter to my values. The perceived or real loss of a friendship is a heavy cross. Friendship is a high value for me.

But the pattern that seemed to be the golden thread through my story were the losses that threatened my identity. Not my child-of-God identity, but the identity you saw and the identity I was living because of the current "hat" I was wearing.

Certain triggers emerged too. My humanity is alive and well!

The evaluation, the patterns, the triggers pointed to an unhappy truth, I get so comfortable with my temporary hats, they become more important to me than my true identity. So when one is snatched or even slowly slides off, the trauma of loss is great.

So I'm learning:

Loss is real and loss is hard.
I am human. I feel the effects of loss.

As I was evaluating, Forever Reign came on in the background.

"Nothing compares to your embrace.
Light of the world forever reign.
Oh, I'm running to your love; the riches of your love will always be enough."

In the process of remembering, evaluating, and seeing my places of temptation, God reminded, I need to RUN to the reality of His love. I want my true experience ... even in the midst of loss ... to be that the riches of His love will be enough.

And so I run. And I ask, Just for today, what does it look like to trust your love for me?

"I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me."
Song of Solomon 7:10

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mom, Me, and Treasured Moments

Me and Mom, February 2015
We sat on her bed that winter evening knitting together. Mom a cabled hat for
my sister creating the pattern as she went. Me a sock religiously following my printed pattern. I don't think I'll ever have her natural knitting abilities.

Memories flooded back. I was about 8 years old (I think). Mom sat on my bed that evening. We weren't knitting but we were reading together - one of my favorite detective series, Nancy Drew. It is a good memory, Mom and me enjoying and doing together. 

Mom and I still love a good thriller.

Knitting, or reading, or sewing, or scouting, I have many Mom and me treasured moments.

Mom is in her tenth decade now. What a gift that we are still creating Mom and me moments. In February it was knitting together; last week it was shopping together for new valences for Mom's living room. And it was trying out a new (to us) Chinese restaurant - just Mom and me. (I wish I snapped a shot of our dinners, we needed a take-home box.)
I never did catch on to Bridge which Mom still plays regularly.

Our history informs our current realities. Our best times are being together creating new moments and re-living old memories. 

Thank you Mom for many many treasured moments and many many treasured memories. I am blessed. 
Mom and me last week.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
Her children rise up and call her blessed;"
excerpts from Proverbs 31 (Italics mine)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What do you do?

What do you do?

I'm thinking about this question a lot these days. My high school reunion is coming up.

It's another innocent question. Yet in its innocence, it leads down a path that may be true, but also is not the real answer ... at least not the answer I want people to know ... or is it?

I'm a writer. True.
I'm adjunct faculty with the TrueFaced ministry. True.
I'm on staff with The Navigators. True.

Then there is the gramma hat, the neighbor hat, the daughter hat, and many more. I do a lot!

As I pondered my dilemma, God reminded me of the Matthew 17 narrative commonly known as The Transfiguration.

But first, a bit of background.

Up to this point Jesus had been busy teaching, healing, loving those in his path. Many followed his footsteps, awed by his life. At one point, as he concluded "The Sermon on the Mount", the response of the hearers translated in The Message ...

"When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying--quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard."
Matthew 7:28, 29 The Message. (underline mine)

Obviously the crowd is awed. They heard his words. They saw his life, a life that affirmed his teaching and gave permission to his words. 

If they had been asked, what does Jesus do, the answers might have circled around his teachings and his doings. But they really did not know who Jesus was.

Skip ahead to Matthew 17 and The Transfiguration. Jesus brings only his closest friends up Mt. Tabor with him. There his appearance is miraculously changed. The friends observing this phenomena are overwhelmed. Peter, the first to gather his wits, suggests a plan of building memorials on the mountain. But before he could even finish his thoughts, God himself interrupts and identifies Jesus, "This is my beloved son..." (verse 5)

Jesus is identified; his real self revealed. Only Peter, James, and John were there to hear.

Jesus didn't identify himself; God identified him. 

It's okay to use my hats as identifiers, conversation openers. When God allows deeper, conversation with a few, that is the time to let the hats slide off. 

Sue, let God initiate.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God
and not to us."
II Corinthians 4:7

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Are you busy?

The morning started; my do-list, the guide for the day, in hand. There was precious little room for error.

Breakfast with my friend--check.
Off for some fun--planned in advance--check.
Necessary errands--everything running smoothly. Phew.

And on the day went. 

That evening nine gathered around my dining room table. I was ready. The do-list worked.

But the thank you note received a few days later communicated more than the penned words. My friend spoke of what a gift the dinner was. Hmmm, I don't remember the gift--it was the next on that carefully crafted two day old do-list.

I didn't even snap a picture that night (me who loves to record everything with more than memories). And that might have been the most telling.

YES, I am busy! 

Busy, physically there, and not present! Ouch.

Understanding and conviction came via David Benner's words from his book, Sacred Companions.

"Soul hosts prepare for their gift of hospitality by cultivating a place of quiet within themselves. It is out of this place that soul friends offer their gifts of presence, stillness, safety, and love. Although I often try to pull it off, I know that I cannot really be present for another person when my inner world is filled with pre-occupations and distractions." (pages 46 & 47)

Busyness does not foster presence.

"Real people require real love if we are to give a gift of genuine presence."        (page 49)

That evening I deprived my real friends of my real presence and real love distracted by my real do-list.
________________________________________________ When Chris innocently voiced her question, are you busy, her meaning was, Sue, are you living in your desires? Is your time filled with your passions? Her question was kind and caring; she was inquiring about me.

My answer, oh yes, was totally true. And yet in the busyness of living out my passions something went awry. Busyness interrupted presence. And joy slipped away.

"As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand." The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it--it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."
Luke 10:38-42, The Message

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How are you doing?

Trisha's innocent question came naturally.

Laughter preceded my stopping and pondering.

Do I answer honestly? Yes!

My friends, my community cannot love well without knowledge.

But my on the surface response is partial truth.

On the surface, life has been busy full (sounds better).

  • Yes, I loved the guests who kept our guest beds warm ... and even spilled over to the other beds some nights.
  • The Sabbath-Living Retreat culminating months of prayer and planning was abundantly blessed by God.
  • Yes, I loved our trip to Peoria where many of my besties still live.
  • Kara's memorial celebrating a life well-lived swung my emotional pendulum from laughter to tears.
  • Yes, and who wouldn't love 5 days in Florida in April when your home is Colorado?
And of course the every-days managed to seep into the cracks. Life has been FULL.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Again I stop and ponder remembering these words from Psalm 19.
Tell the truth? ABSOLUTELY! And continue on ...

I prefer, How are you living? to How are you doing? Thank you Kara for this wisdom.

How am I living in the midst of current realities?

For me, the busyness of the now tends to influence the future; it seems overwhelming. I tend to re-act instead of decide--not good.
I'm tempted to play Eeyore.
I'm aware. Now I want my focus to embrace acceptance and gratitude.

So, how am I living?

White space dominates my calendar for a few weeks.
Decisions are being deferred.
Resting, rejuvenating, refueling are my majors
I'm giving myself grace.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4  (underline mine)

How do you compensate for busyness? What does refueling look like for you? What are your warning signs that you need to readjust for a time?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jennifer's Story; My Story; God's Story

It was Saturday morning just 7 days before our Sabbath-Living Retreat. As I sat with my friends (those making up the retreat committee) in our living room, I shared Ephesians 2:10 …

 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

I desired to affirm them. God created each with gifts and abilities that they were living out as together we brought this retreat to reality. The retreat that was God's idea. And our pace was walking as each did their part.

Then I skipped to Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Amy S.
So many importants in those few words, let peace rule … one body … be thankful.

Committee and community both originate from the same Latin word, communis. Some definitions include a social unit that share common values and are assembled for a specific purpose. That’s who we were—one body, a small community who came together for a specific time with a specific purpose. Over the course of 8 months this committee became a community of friends.

What did that look like for me?

1. Ministry is prayer; ministry is partnership; ministry is stewardship.
2. Affirming my friends with their contributions.
3. Trusting them with their responsibilities.

Jennifer shared this story with me:

Several years ago she headed up a committee to work on a similar women’s event. As with our Sabbath-Living retreat there were lots of details that needed to be attended to. Jennifer cast the vision and the committee went to work. The day of the event, one of the committee members came up to her and said, “Jennifer, step back and watch God work.” As she let go and watched the event unfold more beautifully than she could imagine, tears formed in her eyes and excitement in her heart as she observed God’s blessing.

Jennifer’s story foreshadowed my story. I am so thankful for each
of these dear friends; and I stand amazed at the goodness of God smiling on the retreat.

But there were others too, faithful ladies who prayed. Thank you so much to Janine, Susan, Mary, Mary, Joyce, Lynea, Jenny, Trisha, Jean, and Barb.

Deb and Kathleen, along with Dana shared their passions in afternoon workshops complimenting the theme of the retreat.

Nan, Lisa, Joyce, and Rachel all shared personal words of testimony about
their learning Sabbath-living.

Amy K. and her friends who led each session with their worshipful music.

Pam and Shelia and others who generously donated gifts for the women attending.

And Sally Breedlove, our speaker who made the Word come alive to all of us. Her depth in the scriptures and her down-to-earth stories were the perfect introduction to our personal reflection times. 

Like Jennifer, I was stunned by how God orchestrated the entire weekend.

“that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”                                                                                                                                           Romans 15:6